Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, of blessed memory, one of American Judaism’s leading charismatic spiritual leaders, passed away on Aug, 23 at 80 years of age. She was the pioneer of the Jewish outreach movement who single-handedly brought back thousands of assimilated American Jews of all ages to the Jewish faith.
This week’s column will cite several of her most recent essays, each written under the shadow of her declining health, yet each reflecting an optimism of faith and spiritual fortitude that should serve as an inspiration to each of us.
On Nov. 10, 2015, the rebbetzin published an essay titled “Hineni — Here I Am, Praised Be Hashem,” in which she reflected on her physical condition and on her faith and mission:
“Those of us who have traveled life’s pathways know the roads are bumpy and hard, with danger lurking everywhere. Nevertheless, at least in our personal lives, we continue to live with hope that the roads will be smoothed over and we will arrive to our destination without any mishaps…
“Those of you who know me know I am a ‘runner.’ No, I’ve never participated in a marathon but I did dedicate my life to running for Hashem, trying to carry His mitzvas to all our people in every part of the globe. That mission never left me.
“Fifty years ago when I established Hineni, one of the world’s first outreach movements, I dared to do the impossible. I was a young rebbetzin going into uncharted territory.
“To be sure, I was not alone. I asked my dear father, Rav Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, to take me to all the great Torah luminaries of the generation for their blessing.
“Fortified with these blessings and with the strength and encouragement of my beloved husband, Rav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, I went forth. The doors opened. I spoke on every continent wherever Jews lived and Hashem granted me the awesome privilege of rousing dormant Jewish hearts and souls.
“And now, suddenly, I saw that flash of lightning. I wasn’t well. I wanted to run — to do what I’d always done — but I could not. My legs would not take me. My strength was just not there.